IF NOT NOW
TOURING EXHIBITION, UK, 2014-2015
IDENTITY & DESIGN
Working alongside photography agent Louise Turner and designer Sean Feehan, we supported a great photography project called If Not Now.
Whelan was inspired to work with UK charity Contact the Elderly after seeing the work it does in local communities all over the UK to help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation in older residents. Contact the Elderly currently has over 570 groups in England, Scotland and Wales, which provide a regular, consistent and vital friendship link every month to over 4,600 older people, aged 75 and above.
In order to capture this, Whelan travelled all over the UK during an 18 month period to visit tea parties arranged by groups of dedicated volunteers for Contact the Elderly.
He asked various questions about each sitters experience with loneliness and how their lives have benefitted since joining the charity. Questions such as how has loneliness effected their lives, what experiences they have had since joining the charity and what it’s like to feel lonely.
- If Not Now, Skinners Hall (Private Exhibition) December 2, 2015
- Skinners Hall, October 29, 2015
- If Not Now, St Paul's Cathedral (Ticketed Exhibition), October 29, 2015
- St Paul's Cathedral, October 1-10, 2015
- If Not Now, Blackburn Is Open, October 1, 2015 Sat, Oct 10, 2015
- If Not Now, Blackburn is Open September 6-13
- If Not Now, Brighton Library September 6, 2015 & September 13, 2015
- Brighton Library, July 23 - Aug 26, 2015
- If Not Now, Manchester Central Library, July 23, 2015 & Aug 26, 2015
- Manchester Central Library, July 1-7
- If Not Now, Newcastle University, July 1, 2015 & July 7, 2015
- Newcastle University, June 28, 2015
- If Not Now, Studio 338 (PRIVATE EXHIBITION) Sunday, June 28, 2015
- If Not Now, Studio 338 , June 20-30, 2015
- If Not Now, National Museum of Scotland June 20 & June 30, 2015
- National Museum of Scotland May 29 - June 15, 2015
- If Not Now, Walthamstow Library, May 29 & Jun 15, 2015
- If Not Now, Walthamstow Library, May 28 & July 24
- If Not Now, Vestry House, May 28 & July 24, 2015
- Vestry House Museum, April 13 & May 17
- If Not Now, The Mill, April 13, 2015 & May 17, 2015
- The Mill, December 10-15, 2015
- If Not Now, House of Commons December 10 & December 15, 2014
About Michael Whelan
Michael started an early career in Cartography developing a passion for visual communication through designing maps. Then in 2003 whilst exploring his father’s loft looking for his fishing rod, he found his dad’s old 35mm camera. Armed with this camera, he started taking it to gigs, and found that it was like having a passport to see any band he wanted. Hundreds of gigs and publications later, he decided to quit his full-time job and study Photography.
Since graduating in 2007, Michael has won several industry awards from the Association of Photographers, PX3, International Photography Awards and Creative Review, as well as exhibiting in places like the Photographers Gallery, the New York Photo Awards and at Cannes Lions festival as part of the Higher/Pitch group show.
About Contact The Elderly
Contact the Elderly is the only national charity, which since inception, has focussed solely on relieving the acute loneliness and isolation of older people in the UK who live alone, without family, friends or other support networks nearby.
The Contact the Elderly model is based on a simple yet very effective idea: free, monthly tea parties for small groups of older people and volunteers within their community - which bring all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and gives everyone something to look forward to.
There are currently over 7,500 volunteers supporting the groups: volunteer drivers collect the older guests from their homes and accompany them to tea parties, while volunteer hosts hold the tea parties in their homes. Contact the Elderly is the winner of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012.
'Not Lonely, Not forgotten, Photographed' by Helen James, Photography Historian and Writer
Loneliness and isolation are issues that busy people hide from, turn a blind eye to, we shut the curtains, close the door. Ignore. We are too occupied with our own concerns.
Most of us don’t know our neighbours these days, certainly those of us in busy urban locations, stacked in our flats or squashed in expensive, undersized houses. We tuck our humanity under the doormat as we scuttle past the front doors and windows in our street as we journey from home to work, work to home on a never-ending shuttle.
We know loneliness is out there all around us centre stage in the time-rich lives of people who are elderly and vulnerable. Loneliness hides behind closed doors controlling lives and triggers a raft of problems for those affected by isolation. We sometimes catch a glimpse behind the smiles and the keen hello’s that mask the reality lived. We also know that loneliness could find us one day too. It could be lurking ready to pounce, dormant in our present waiting for our futures. One day in our fractured society we too could be lonely, invisible or forgotten when the kids have gone and the job has finished and the clock goes a little slower.
Contact the Elderly is trying to do something about this debilitating issue and bring some company into lives that are hungry for contact and engagement with others. The charity is asking us to think about those around us and confront the growing issue of social isolation in the lives of many elderly people whose family networks have been torn apart by the realities of modern Britain. The issues that drive charities are often shaming of society. They need to pelt publics with emotion, twist heads to look at the issue(s) that they care so deeply about.
What role can photography play in this process? Portrait photography in particular can bring some of the faces out from behind the closed doors and show us who the issue is affecting. Photography can confront us with the individuals behind the rhetoric. It can visualize the realization that the issue is indiscriminate in who it affects. By its sheer ability to catalogue and reinforce in picture after picture, photography can speak both of the individual and the mammoth scale of the issue. There are too many people experiencing this avoidable reality - photography can remind us again and again with yet another picture of an elderly person.
Loneliness concerns photographers. It’s one of those subjects that recurs in many guises, many projects. Photographer Michael Whelan has lapped the UK with the help of Contact the Elderly to put some faces into the frame and humanize the issue. Michael is showing us some of the people who are experiencing loneliness today. Collectively the portraits show a rich cross section of elderly people who agreed to be photographed and represent the charity that is enriching their own lives, with the aim of highlighting the issue and helping others.
Read the whole foreword here.
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/ Jenny Theolin